December 20, 2008 / 12:04 PM / 12 years ago

Iraq lawmakers reject law on British troops

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq’s parliament voted on Saturday to reject a draft law that allows troops from Britain, Australia and several other countries to remain beyond the end of this year, Iraqi parliamentarians said.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown addresses British troops at Basra Air Station in Southern Iraq during his one day visit December 17, 2008. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

The draft law, under which those troops would withdraw by the end of July, was rejected because lawmakers objected to it being in the form of legislation, rather than an agreement as was the deal Iraq signed with the United States, said Hussein al-Falluji, a member of the Sunni Accordance Front.

“Legally relations between two countries cannot be organised by a law. They should be arranged, according to international law, through treaties or agreements,” said Falluji.

“For this reason parliament rejected this law. It was a big mistake by the government.”

Both the law governing the British presence and the security pact allowing the 140,000 U.S. soldiers in the country to remain three more years replace a U.N. mandate that expires on December 31.

“What the parliament did today, rejecting the bill, was a great national achievement,” said Nassir al-Issawi, a lawmaker loyal to anti-American Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who wants an immediate end to what he sees as a foreign occupation.

“We believe that British forces and all other forces should pack their things,” said Issawi.

No comment was immediately available from the government.

The rejected law covered the future of troops from Britain, Australia, Romania, Estonia, El Salvador and NATO in Iraq, where violence is dropping sharply and foreign troops are increasingly handing over security to local forces.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said this week that a reserve component of around 400 British soldiers, compared to 4,100 now, would remain to train Iraqi naval forces in the south after July.

The U.S.-Iraqi security pact sets a withdrawal date for the U.S. troops in Iraq at the end of 2011 and gradually restricts U.S. activities more than five years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

Writing by Missy Ryan; Editing by Michael Christie and Ralph Boulton

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